Cass County Courthouse (Iowa)

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Cass County Court House
Cass Co IA Court House.jpg
Cass County Courthouse (Iowa) is located in Iowa
Cass County Courthouse (Iowa)
Cass County Courthouse (Iowa) is located in the US
Cass County Courthouse (Iowa)
Location 5 W. 7th St.
Atlantic, Iowa
Coordinates 41°24′12″N 95°0′52″W / 41.40333°N 95.01444°W / 41.40333; -95.01444Coordinates: 41°24′12″N 95°0′52″W / 41.40333°N 95.01444°W / 41.40333; -95.01444
Built 1934
Architect Dougher, Rich and Woodburn
Architectural style PWA Moderne
MPS PWA-Era County Courthouses of IA MPS
NRHP reference # 03000819 [1]
Added to NRHP August 28, 2003

The Cass County Courthouse in Atlantic, Iowa, United States was built in 1934 as the first courthouse in the state built with funding from the Public Works Administration (PWA). It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003 as a part of the PWA-Era County Courthouses of Iowa Multiple Properties Submission.[1] The courthouse is the third structure to house court functions and county administration.[2]


Cass County was organized in 1853. The first county commissioners met in Indiantown and chose a place called Lewis as the county seat where they used a two-story house for the courthouse.[3] The Rock Island Railroad extended tracks to Atlantic and the town offered the county land for a new courthouse.[when?] In 1869, the county accepted Atlantic's offer and constructed a small frame building on the site. The building soon proved to be inadequate and the county rented the nearby Park House to provide additional space. In 1888, the county erected a new two-story stone courthouse building which was destroyed by fire in March 1932.[4]

Because of the Great Depression, the first referendum to build a new courthouse failed in the General Election of 1932. The following year President Franklin Delano Roosevelt began the Public Works Administration, and Cass County was the first county to apply for a grant. Voters passed the second referendum in 1933 and the county retained the Des Moines architectural firm of Dougher, Rich & Woodburn to design the new building. C.C. Larsen Co. of Council Bluffs, Iowa won the bid to construct the building and work began in March 1934. The new building was dedicated on December 26, 1934, with Governor Clyde L. Herring as the main speaker.[2]


The architectural style of the building is known as Depression Modern or PWA Moderne. The building features a symmetrical façade with a central section flanked by two lower wings. The exterior is composed of buff-colored brick and Bedford limestone trim. It is three stories tall above a raised basement. On the interior, central corridors on each floor extend the length of the building, with the offices opening onto the corridors. The building features multi-colored terrazzo floors, marble wainscoting and acoustic tiles. The court room was originally decorated in dark wood tones and Art Deco ornamentation.[2]

Dougher, Rich & Woodburn was able to save three other Iowa counties money by providing a similar design for their county’s new courthouse. Newspapers in Buchanan and Humboldt counties printed drawings that were nearly identical when they were planning to build new courthouses in the 1930s.[2]


  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-11-08. 
  2. ^ a b c d Svendsen, Marlvs A. "PWA-Era County Courthouses of IA MPS". National Park Service. Retrieved 2011-02-14. 
  3. ^ Stanek, Edward and Jacqueline (1976). Iowa's Magnificent County Courthouses. Des Moines: Wallace-Homestead. p. 36. ISBN 0-87069-189-9. 
  4. ^ "Cass County Courthouse". Iowa Judicial Branch. Retrieved 2011-02-14.